Paul, looking sraight at the council, said, “Brothers, right up to now I have always conducted myself before God with a clear conscience.”
Ananias the high priest ordered the officers standing beside Paul to hit him on the mouth.
Paul said to him, “God will hit you, you whitewashed wall! You're sitting there to judge me according to the law, and you order me to be hit in contravention of the law!”
The officers standing beside Paul said, “How dare you insult the high priest!”
“Brothers, I didn't know that he was the high priest,” Paul replied. “As Scriptures say, ‘You must not speak evil of any ruler of your people.’ ”*
When Paul realized that some of the council were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, he shouted out, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee! I'm on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead!”
When he said this, a tremendous argument broke out between the Pharisees and Sadducees that split the council. (The Sadducees say there is no resurrection from the dead, no angels, and no spirits, but Pharisees believe in all of these.)
A great commotion erupted and some of the Pharisee teachers of the law stood up and argued fiercely, saying, “We find this man not guilty! Maybe a spirit spoke to him, or an angel!”
10 The argument was getting out of hand, so the commander, concerned that they would tear Paul to pieces, ordered the soldiers to go and rescue him from them by force, and take him back into the fortress. 11 Afterwards, during the night, the Lord stood by Paul, and told him, “Keep up your courage! Just as you have given your testimony about me in Jerusalem, so you must be my witness in Rome as well.”
12 Next day some Jews plotted together, and they took an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. 13 Over forty were part of this conspiracy.
14 They went to the chief priests and leaders and said, “We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul. 15 So you and the council should send word to the commander that he should bring Paul down to meet with you, as if you wanted to examine his case in more detail. We're ready to kill him along the way.”
16 But Paul's nephew (his sister's son) heard about their planned ambush, and he went into the fortress and told Paul about it. 17 Paul called over one of the centurions, and told him, “Take this young man to the commander, because he has some information to share with him.”
18 So the centurion took Paul's nephew and brought him to the commander and told him, “The prisoner Paul called me over and asked me to bring this young man to you. He has something to tell you.” 19 The commander took the young man by the hand and drew him aside. “What do you have to tell me?” he asked quietly.
20 The Jews have arranged to ask you to bring Paul to the council tomorrow, as if they wanted to ask more detailed questions about his case,” he explained. 21 Please don't listen to them, because they have planned to ambush him with more than forty men who have taken an oath not to eat or drink until they have killed him. They're ready right now, waiting for you to agree to the request.”
22 The commander sent the young man on his way, warning him, “Don't tell anyone that you've told me about this.” 23 He summoned two centurions and told them, “Get two hundred soldiers ready to go to Caesarea, together with seventy cavalry-men and two hundred spearmen. Be ready to leave at nine p.m. tonight. 24 Provide horses for Paul to ride to make sure he gets to Governor Felix safely.”
25 He also wrote a letter that went like this:
26 From Claudius Lysias to His Excellency Governor Felix, greetings! 27 This man was seized by the Jews and they were about to kill him, when I arrived on the scene with soldiers and rescued him, because I had found out he was a Roman citizen. 28 I wanted to know the reason for their accusations, so I took him before their council. 29 I found out the charges against him had to do with issues regarding their law, but he was not guilty of anything that merited death or imprisonment. 30 When I discovered a plot against this man I sent him to you right away, ordering his accusers to make their complaints before you.”
31 So the soldiers followed their orders and took Paul overnight to Antipatris. 32 The next morning they sent him on with the cavalry, and went back to the fortress.
33 When the cavalry arrived at Caesarea they delivered the letter to the governor and brought Paul before him. 34 After reading the letter, the governor asked Paul what province he came from. When he learned he was from Cilicia he told Paul, 35 I will investigate your case when your accusers arrive.” He ordered Paul detained in Herod's palace.
* 23:5 Quoting Exodus 22:28.